THERE was a common misconception about the Michael Maguire-Shaun Wane partnership.
That Madge, the amiable and intelligent bloke from Australia, provided players with the technical know-how and the expertise, and Wane – pardon the expression – put rockets up their back-sides.
It would be easy to reach that conclusion. It would also be unfair, because it’s simply not true.
For a start, any player who had to face the wrath of an angry Maguire will tell you it was not a pleasant experience. Remember the Sky Sports footage of him tearing strips off the players during a half-time speech?
Madge was pretty good at putting fire in bellies when he needed to. Just like Wane is pretty good at the other areas of coaching, too.
Sure, as a former no-nonsense prop, he is great at the tough and the rough.
But over a long apprenticeship, he’s also become a very good coach, who has worked hard and enjoyed success at every level he’s been at.
If you want to know what players really think of a coach, don’t ask the players in the team – they’ll usually say the right things because they’re being picked.
Ask the ones who aren’t being picked. Over the years, Wane must have dropped scores of players, and allowed heaps to leave the academy set-ups. But you’ll struggle to find anyone who’ll say a bad word about him, because they respect his integrity, ability and honesty.
No-one can say Shaun has not deserved this chance, and it’s great to see him take charge of his home-town club.
It’s an honour too few Wiganers have had – Mike Gregory and Colin Clarke are the only other two during my lifetime – and having seen the amount of work he has put his players through, I’m convinced this can be a good season.
The competition for places is intense, particularly among the forwards. In Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley and Pat Richards, Wigan have a potent back-three who will be serviced by the vintage qualities of George Carmont, Thomas Leuluai, Sean O’Loughlin and Brett Finch, who finished last year on fire.
The Warriors have lost quality and experience in the shape of Joel Tomkins, Andy Coley, Paul Deacon and the exceptional Ryan Hoffman.
But shrewd recruiting (Ben Flower in particular), the return of Darrell Goulding (centre) and Gareth Hock (second row) to their natural positions and the development of a clutch of exciting youngsters will, hopefully, compensate for those losses.
And there’s another reason to be excited – the prospect of seeing Stuart Fielden and Amos Roberts reclaiming their glorious best form after an injury-riddled 2011.
It won’t be easy. Warrington will be hurting from last year’s Devon Lock-style nose dive, Leeds will be typically strong and St Helens will have a new home, having done well on the road at Widnes last year. But it’s a challenge Wigan, and Wane, are ready for.